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RVA Legends — E. A. Saunders & Sons

A look into the history of Richmond places and people that have disappeared from our landscape.




1330-1334 Cary Street
24-26 South Fourteenth Street
Built, after 1865
Demolished, unknown

The business that funded Founder’s Hall.

(VCU) — 1889 Baist Atlas Map of Richmond — Plate 2

E. A. Saunders & Sons, wholesale grocers, provision dealers, and importers, at Fourteenth and Cary streets, are rated m the trade a house fast approaching, if they have not reached that mark already, the distinction of $1,000,000 in sales a year. They carry a big stock — seldom less than $100,000 worth of ordinary goods, in their place of business (shown in the accompanying engraving), and heavy staples in a warehouse at 1428 Cary street, a few doors away.

(Chronicling America) — advertisement from The Jewish South — Friday, January 27, 1899 — note the mention of Pearl Street, the old name for Fourteenth Street near the waterfront

They own these premises, and the head of the house is credited with personal resources of uncommon value besides. They have five men on the road, and 25 employees altogether. Their specialty is tobacco and tobacco manufacturers’ supplies.

[RVCJ93] — photograph, circa 1903

This house was established directly after the war by the firm of Walker & Saunders, of which Mr. E. A. Saunders, Sr., head of the house now, was one. He was sole proprietor from 1876 to 1883, and then his son, E. A., Jr., acquired an interest with him. In 1890 another son, W. B. was admitted, and these three constitute the firm now.

[RVCJ93] — Edmund A. Saunders, circa 1893

Mr. E. A Saunders, Sr., is, as we have hinted, a man of wealth, acquired by thrift and tact during a long and successful business career. He was a country merchant originally, in New Kent County, this State, and he has been in business, altogether, forty-two years. He is a member of the firm of E. A. Saunders & Co., of New York, engaged chiefly in the lumber trade, and he owns vessels, city real estate, farms, plantations and bank stock to a considerable amount. [RVCJ03]

January 2019

Saunders started his business in 1861. If he had a building at this location then, it did not survive the Evacuation Fire of 1865, and anything else came later. He would go on to build the Saunders-Willard House on West Franklin Street, that would eventually become Founder’s Hall.

Today, the corner is occupied by The Valentine First Freedom Center, with outdoor sculpture and indoor gallery commemorating the nation’s development of religious liberty. It’s pretty cool; you should check it out if you haven’t.

It also used to be the location where the Virginia General Assembly first met, prior to the construction of Thom Jefferson’s Capitol building, just up the hill, in 1785.

(E. A. Saunders & Son is part of the Atlas RVA Project)


  • [RVCJ03] Richmond, Virginia: The City on the James: The Book of Its Chamber of Commerce and Principal Business Interests. G. W. Engelhardt. 1903.
  • [RVCJ93] Richmond, Virginia: The City on the James: The Book of Its Chamber of Commerce and Principal Business Interests. G. W. Engelhardt. 1893.


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